Subtle Lessons From Disney

I mentioned in my previous post that the family and I visited Disney World a few weeks ago. I love Disney because they know how to create a user experience.  I don’t think anybody does it better.

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of things businesses can learn from Disney. They are truly a remarkable company. During this trip, I noticed a few subtle things that I think as a practice manager I can learn from.

1 – Name tags

Photo credit: Joe Penniston
Photo credit: Joe Penniston

At Disney, everybody wears a name tag. And the name tag also shows where the person is from. It doesn’t matter if you are the manager or the cleaning person, everybody has a name tag.

The name tag is important for several reasons. For starters, I think Disney staff becomes more personable. When you know someone’s name, the interaction changes and the encounter becomes amiable and affable.

I also think it encourages the staff to be more accountable. If a patron has a complaint, they can say, Bob from Clearwater, FL at the vending section by the Dumbo ride was very rude to me. How many times have you had a complaint and when asked, who did you talk to and you said, “I dunno?” At Disney there is no excuse because all employees carry a name tag.

Displaying where the employees are from I think it is a great conversation starter. If you see an employee that lives in a city where you are from, you’re more likely to engage with that person. But even if you don’t know the city, I think it is cool to see that a person is from Australia or Spain. Again, it makes the interaction more personable.

2 – Acknowledgment

I had a birthday while visiting the parks. I mentioned it to the ticketing person and not only was able to get in free for that day, I also got a button that read, Happy Birthday Brandon. I put the tag on my cap and forgot about it. But the Disney staff didn’t. Walking around the park I was congratulated by Disney employees all day long. It sounds trivial, but I thought it was a nice touch.

I also noticed they hand out other types of tags. Some read, “first time visitor” and others read, “I’m celebrating!” The tags are intended to acknowledge people, but I think they serve a different purpose. I think they are intended to be cues for the Disney employees to make people feel extra special.

The acknowledgment observation can be used in several ways. I’m not suggesting to go out and buy tags or pins so we can put it on little Timmy because today was his first visit to the office. But I think creating notes that serve as cues to help us identify different things helps us provide a better experience.

For example, let’s say your front desk person is talking to a patient on the phone and the patient mentions she likes to bake. What if the front desk person wrote a little note inside the chart that read, patient likes to bake. A few weeks later the patient comes in to see the doctor. While putting the patient in the RN reads the note and then says to the patient, “So, have you baked anything delicious lately?”

The patient will be thrilled.

Actually, doctors already do this type of thing. When Mr. Jones comes in for a physical and the doc asks him about his knee injury that occurred a couple of years ago, the doctor doesn’t really remember (OK, some do remember everything) the knee injury until she read it right before  walking in the examining room. But the patient thinks the doc has a memory like an elephant.

3 – Employee empowerment

While waiting for the staff to fulfill a meal order, the couple next to me was complaining about their order. They were grumpy (ha!) their order was not what they wanted. The Disney employee went back and forth with the couple trying to get the order right, but the couple really wasn’t cooperating. The employee never lost her cool and you can tell her goal was to make sure they were content with their order.

The employee keeping her cool isn’t what I wanted to point out (although it was quite a accomplishment since the couple was being unreasonable with the Disney food server). What I noticed was how the employee was able to handle the situation herself without the need of a manager or supervisor.

She didn’t have to call the manager to get the order changed, have the guy come over with a key and void the transaction and all that.  She just took care of it right then and there because she was empowered to do the right thing.

I think employee empowerment is crucial to delivering an exceptional customer service. If an employee doesn’t have the discernment to know what is best for the patient and the practice in terms of trying to resolve an issue, then I would remove that person from any position that would require them to do so.

As a customer how many times have you heard from a customer service representative, I can’t do that? Or I’m not authorized to do that. And one’s response usually is? “Then get me someone that IS authorized!”

By not empowering employees to make things right with the customer we are putting barriers to improving the customer/patient experience. In essence, when employees are empowered to do the right thing, they’ll be able to do the right thing.

Before I get a “well, actually…” email from a reader, let me say that there are some circumstances where the employee may not be authorized or is unable to fulfill a patients request. But I would argue that 8 out of 10 times, employee will be able to resolve customer service issues themselves if we delegate them the power to do so.

4 – Distractions

This one is hard to explain without being there at the parks, but I’ll try.

Photo credit: Joe Penniston
Photo credit: Joe Penniston

During my last post I talked about how the best rides at Disney had the longest lines. Disney, understands their customers are going to wait a long time for the rides. But instead of telling people to deal with it, they go through great lengths to distract you while you’re waiting for a ride or a show. For example, when you step in the Star Wars building at Disney’s Hollywood studio,  you are walking into the world of Star Wars. There are space ships, droids and sets (like movie sets) all designed to enhance the experience of the ride. But I also think they do it to distract/entertain people while they wait 45 minutes for a ride.

I’m not going to build a playground in the waiting area (although that would be cool), but we can look for ways to distract patients while they are waiting. TV, magazines and some toys are natural choices, but I think we can go a step further. Medical Economics for example, has a few pointers on creating diversions that set the right mood.

Some ideas I started thinking about is giving parents/patients a note pad so they can write down questions they would like to ask the doctor while they are waiting. Not only does this help them get the most out of their visit, it is also a healthy distraction.

Another example we started doing is showing a slide show on one of our TV’s in the waiting area with information about the practice as well as some cute pictures of kids. The idea is to give parents something to look at that is both pleasing and informative. Below is a short example of this video I made the captures the essence.

Of course there are lots of things you can do with a slide show. This is just one example.

What has caught your eye?

We are all customers, clients, patrons, etc. what type of remarkable service have you experienced that may work well in a medical practice?

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2 thoughts on “Subtle Lessons From Disney”

  1. I heard about this site from my sister. Very impressed with your observations. I work in an orthodontic office and I see several points that I would like to talk to my boss about. Good job!

    1. Well, if you are impressed with my observations I can only conclude that you are a very, very smart woman. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and dropping me a note. Oh, and say hello to your sister for me. I get the feeling she is very smart too.


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